The maintenance of high standards of professional competence is a responsibility shared by all mental health counselors in the best interests of the client, the public, and the profession. Mental health counselors:
- Recognize the boundaries of their particular competencies and the limitations of their expertise.
- Provide only those services and use only those techniques for which they are qualified by education, training, or experience.
- Maintain knowledge of relevant scientific and professional information related to the services rendered, and recognizes the need for on-going education.
- Represent accurately their competence, education, training, and experience including licenses and certifications.
- Perform their duties, as teaching professionals, based on careful preparation in order that their instruction is accurate, up-to-date and educational.
- Recognize the importance of continuing education and remain open to new counseling approaches and procedures documented by peer-reviewed scientific and professional literature.
- Recognize the important need to be competent in regard to cultural diversity and are sensitive to the diversity of varying populations as well as to changes in cultural expectations and values over time.
- Recognize that their effectiveness is dependent on their own mental and physical health. Should their involvement in any activity, or any mental, emotional, or physical health problem, compromise sound professional judgment and competency, they seek capable professional assistance to determine whether to limit, suspend, or terminate services to their clients.
- Have a responsibility to maintain high standards of professional conduct at all times.
- Take appropriate steps to rectify ethical issues with colleagues by using procedures developed by employers and/or state licensure boards.
- Have a responsibility to empower clients, when appropriate, especially/particularly clients with disabilities.
- Are aware of the intimacy of the counseling relationship, maintain a healthy respect for the integrity of the client, and avoid engaging in activities that seek to meet the mental health counselor’s personal needs at the expense of the client.
- Will actively attempt to understand the diverse cultural backgrounds of the clients with whom they work. This includes learning how the mental health counselor’s own cultural/ethical/racial/religious identities impact their own values and beliefs about the counseling process.
- Are responsible for continuing education and remaining abreast of current trends and changes in the field including the professional literature on best practices.
- Develop a plan for termination of practice, death or incapacitation by assigning a colleague or records custodian to handle transfer of clients and files.
- Mental health counselors are aware of their language and avoid using language that will be offensive to individuals with disabilities.
- Mental health counselors do not condone or engage in any discrimination based on ability, age, color, culture, disability, ethnic group, gender, gender identity, race, religion, national origin, politic beliefs, sexual orientation, marital status, or socioeconomic status.
- Mental health counselors do not condone or engage in sexual harassment, or violate the provisions of state or federal laws, prohibiting sexual harassment.
- Mental health counselors have a responsibility to educate themselves about their own biases toward those of different races, creeds, identities, orientations, cultures, and physical and mental abilities; and then to seek consultation, supervision and or counseling in order to prevent those biases interfering with the counseling process.
- Conflict of Interest
Mental health counselors are aware of possible conflicts of interests that may arise between the counselor and the client, the employer, consultant and other professionals.
Mental health counselors may choose to consult with any other professionally competent person about a client assuring that no conflict of interest exists. When conflicts occur, mental health counselors clarify the nature of the conflict and inform all parties of the nature and direction of their loyalties and responsibilities, and keep all parties informed of their commitments.
D. Assessment and Diagnosis
- Selection and Administration
Mental health counselors utilize educational, psychological, diagnostic, career assessment instruments (herein referenced as “tests”), interviews, and other assessment techniques and diagnostic tools in the counseling process for the purpose of determining the client’s particular needs in the context of his/her situation.
- Mental health counselors choose assessment methods that are reliable, valid, and appropriate based on the age, gender, race, ability, and other client characteristics. If tests must be used in the absence of information regarding the aforementioned factors, the limitations of generalizability should be duly noted
- In selecting assessment tools, mental health counselors justify the logic of their choices in relation to the client’s needs and the clinical context in which the assessment occurs.
- Mental health counselors avoid using outdated or obsolete tests, and remain current regarding test publication and revision.
- Mental health counselors use assessments only in the context of professional, academic, or training relationships.
- Mental health counselors provide the client with appropriate information regarding the reason for assessment, the approximate length of time required, and to whom the report will be distributed.
- Mental health counselors provide an appropriate assessment environment with regard to temperature, privacy, comfort, and freedom from distractions.
- Interpretation and Reporting
Mental health counselors respect the rights and dignity of the client in assessment, interpretation, and diagnosis of mental disorders and make every effort to assure that the client receives the appropriate treatment.
- Mental health counselors base diagnoses and other assessment summaries on multiple sources of data whenever possible.
- Mental health counselors are careful not to draw conclusions unless empirical evidence is present.
- Mental health counselors consider multicultural factors (including but not limited to gender, race, religion, age, ability, culture, class, ethnicity, sexual orientation) in test interpretation, in diagnosis, and in the formulation of prognosis and treatment recommendations.
- Mental health counselors are responsible for evaluating the quality of computer software interpretations of test data. Mental health counselors should obtain information regarding validity of computerized test interpretation before utilizing such an approach.
- Mental health counselors clearly explain computerized test results in their summaries and reports.
- Mental health counselors write reports in a style that is clear, concise and easily understandable for the lay reader.
- To the extent possible, mental health counselors provide test results in a neutral and nonjudgmental manner.
- Mental health counselors are responsible for ensuring the confidentiality and security of assessment reports, test data, and test materials regardless of how the material is maintained or transmitted.
- Mental health counselors train their staff to respect the confidentiality of test reports in the context of typing, filing, or mailing them.
- Mental health counselors (or their staff members) do not release an assessment or evaluation report by request unless accompanied by a specific release of information or a valid court order. A subpoena is insufficient to release a report. In such a case, the counselor must inform his or her client of the situation. If the client refuses release, the mental health counselor coordinates between the client’s attorney and the requesting attorney to protect client confidentiality and the counselor’s legal welfare.
Mental health counselors employ only those diagnostic tools and assessment instruments they are trained to use by education, or supervised training and clinical experience.
- Mental health counselors seek appropriate workshops, supervision and training to familiarize themselves with assessment techniques and the use of specific assessment instruments.
- Mental health counselor supervisors ensure that their supervisees have adequate training in interpretation before allowing them to evaluate tests independently.
- Forensic Activity
Mental health counselors who are requested or required to perform forensic functions, such as assessments, interviews, consultations, report writing, responding to subpoenas, or offering expert testimony, comply with all provisions of this Ethics Code and act in accordance with applicable state law.
- Mental health counselors who engage in forensic activity must possess appropriate knowledge and competence, including specialized knowledge about special populations, specialized testing and specialized interview techniques. They must be cognizant of the difference between an expert and fact witness.
- When conducting interviews, writing reports, or offering testimony mental health counselors objectively offer their findings without bias, personal opinion or investment in the ultimate outcome. One error in their report or testimony could make the difference between acceptance or disqualification.
- The client, in a forensic evaluation will be informed about the limits of confidentiality, the role of the mental health counselor, the purpose of the assessment and potential for unfavorable findings.
- Mental health counselors’ forensic written reports and recommendations are based upon information and techniques appropriate to the evaluation. The forensic mental health evaluator expert pays close attention to only using assessments relative to each case.
- Mental health counselors do not provide written conclusions or forensic testimony regarding any individual without reliable information adequate to support any statements or conclusions offered in the forensic setting. The forensic mental health evaluator expert does not diagnose anyone that was not seen during the evaluation process.
- When testifying, mental health counselors clearly present their qualifications and specialized training. They describe fairly the basis for their professional judgment, conclusions, and testimony. Counselors remain cognizant of the social responsibility they bear. The forensic mental health evaluator pays particular attention to avoid being viewed as a “hired gun.” The expert makes every effort to be court appointed to avoid this issue.
- Mental health counselors do not evaluate, for forensic purposes, individuals whom they are currently counseling or have counseled in the past. In addition, mental health counselors do not counsel individuals they are currently evaluating, or have evaluated in the past, for forensic purposes.
- Forensic mental health counselors do not act as an advocate for the legal system, perpetrators, or victims of criminal activity.